Goodreads: The Map to Everywhere
Series: Pirate Stream #1
The Pirate Stream runs through many worlds, but perhaps never before has it touched ours. When it does, Marrill, a young girl from Arizona, finds herself swept up into a race to collect the scattered pieces of a legendary map–a map that can take a person absolutely anywhere. Marrill hopes that the map will take her back home while her new friend Fin longs to use it to find his mother. But though they have allied themselves with a powerful wizard and the best captain on the stream, another also seeks the map–the Oracle, who seeks to fulfill the prophecy of the end of days.
The Map to Everywhere takes several common elements from middle-grade fantasy–thieves, orphans, wizards, pirates, and a quest–and manages to make them all seem fresh. Though the characters fill stereotypical roles, they seldom behave in stereotypical ways. And their quest, though fairly straightforward as quests go, leads them to so many imaginative lands that every page seems a new adventure. The Map to Everywhere, in short, is the perfect start to a new fantastic series.
The story begins with Fin, whose story may seem familiar. His mother dropped him off at an orphanage at a young age and never returned. To survive, Fin turned to a life of thieving. However, though Fin walks in the shoes of many a literary thief and possesses a little of their trademark cockiness, he differs from many of his comrades in that he harbors under it all a secret vulnerability, a need to be recognized and loved. That desire for love transforms him from a type into a three-dimensional character, the kind I can really get behind. Because when Fin is tempted to go back to a life where he fends only for himself, he always has to pause first and consider what they could do to the people he cares about–the people he wishes could care for him. I never liked the typical sarcastic thief, but I can like a thief who wishes he could change.
Marrill, meanwhile, also seemingly begins as a stereotype–the girl who longs for adventure but finds herself stuck in the middle of boring nowhere. And her mother, as mothers always seem to be in middle-grade books, is sick. However, the dynamics of Marrill’s family, their love for one another, sets Marrill’s story apart. Marrill, unlike most characters of her type, immediately sets aside her annoyance at living in Arizona–after all, her mother doesn’t want to be sick and stuck there!–to consider what her family will need for her. This decision at the beginning of the book, rather than at the end, frees Marrill to go adventuring without a black cloud of personal bitterness to hinder her all the way.
Love, indeed, seems to be what sets this story apart. The characters are all generally kind people who care for one another and who want to do the right thing–even if, in moments of weakness, they cannot always follow through. It is refreshing to see a story that does not need to rely on characters repeatedly falling back into old patterns just to keep up the suspense. The forward trajectory of each of the characters’ paths instead allows the story to focus on the quest, the adventure, the magic.
The Map to Everywhere is a truly fun and imaginative work. Even though I recognized the absurdity of a quest being completed within a matter of days after one character revealed he had been chasing one piece of the quest for over 100 years, I was so enchanted by the world that the authors introduced that I simply did not care. I just allowed myself to be swept away by the Pirate Stream to lands unknown. I hope to embark on another adventure with the characters very soon.